Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ronin #15 (Analogue Contest entry #2)

A small entry for the challenge. 

Here is the Ronin #15 for Curt's collection (it was the entry fee for the competition). This is an old figure from 'Clan War', and clearly has an heroic look to him, what with that huge Naginata. This guy has been sitting in a box for over 10 years so I'm glad to know he's going to a loving family. I had the choice between a couple of great Clan War figures, but this one was always my favourite. 

The colour scheme is not based on anything historical, but rather based on the colours of the Crane clan (for those familiar with Legend of the five Rings), by far my favourite clan when I used to play a lot of the CCG and the RPG back in the days.

A Crane Clan Samurai
Plus, pale blue is my favourite colour and I wanted to give him a personnal touch. This was my first samurai and I quite enjoyed painting him, they are a nice challenge, however I don't think I could paint an army of these guys! So I see what Curt did there... ;-)

More seriously, I think the entry fee is a great idea, because not only does Curt sends money to the SPCA (a favourite cause of mine) for every Ronin he receives, but it makes one go out of their comfort zone and paint something they probably would not have painted otherwise. Great initiative Curt! 

This initiative is Leto approved
20 more points for the challenge

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The land of Canaan, part II

I usually base my projects on historical battles and OOB's. Obviously in the case of this project that is difficult to achieve. Because while I can tell you I'd like to represent the battle of Megiddo, I can also tell you we know very little about the forces present at the battle. Moreover, I have to remind myself the ultimate goal of this project is to create a generic Canaanite army that can be used in a variety of rules.

The Canaanite army at Megiddo numbered anywhere between 5000 to 15000 men, depending on your sources. Chariots made-up the bulk of the army, supported by archers, infantry and a small contingent of heavy royal guards. So really, nothing that can't be reproduced on a smaller scale.

So I came up with the following tentative plan :
  • 2x6 chariots
  • 2x24 spearmen (close order)
  • 1x20 archers (open order)
  • 3x12 skirmishers (slingers or javelinmen)
  • 1x Canaanite prince on chariot
So that's a very manageable 130 foot figures, 24 horses and 13 chariots. This is the bare minimum and a good start. Maybe a bit heavy on the infantry but it's to keep me sane between painting the chariots (I love painting infantry). However since I'm not following a strict OOB, I leave myself room to change things along the way. I used to go with huge plans aimed at creating huge armies, but I've wisen up with the years... Now I like to divide my projects into smaller, achievable (and gameable) steps. Once this plan has been achieved, and depending on how much I enjoyed painting the project, I will come up with another plan, which should include more Chariots, Royal guards and the odd extras, like diorama's and such.

As I mentionned in a previous post, the vast majority of these figures will be Foundry, except for the Chariots (Cutting Edge miniatures).

I already have all the lead necessary for this plan, except for the prince. Surprisingly, I haven't found a Canaanite or Mitanni general figure. Anyone have an idea of a special figure I could use? Otherwise I'll just use one of the regular chariots and paint it extra special.

Source material is however quite scarce, and more often than not one has to use reference books on the Egyptians to get info on the Canaanites. So I got the Osprey on the NKE and Bronze Age Chariots, as well as Thutmose III by Richard A. Gabriel (which contains a whole chapter on the Canaanite and Mitanni armies), and Canaanites, by Jonathan N. Tubb. I'm trying at the moment to get a cheap copy of The Art of Warfare in Biblical Land. If a reader has other suggestion I would love to hear them.

One of the thing I enjoy about painting ancients is the almost complete latitude you have in choosing your figure's colour schemes. Like I did with my TYW army, I spent a lot of time thinking about it as I like the look of my armies to match the 'personnality' of the army and it's people. Many biblical armies are mostly beige and browns, but I wanted something more and decided to go with vibrant colours. First because that's my style of painting but also because for some reason I find it represents better a merchant people. It will also make a good contrast with the mostly whites of Canaan enemies; the Imperialistic Egyptians.

And representations of the Canaanites do show colours :

I decided to paint most of my infantry with a limited palette of raw linen, red and pale blue, in various ways as you have seen with the spearmen and the slingers. It will unify the army without making it look too uniformed. Chariots are special, and as such will have their own colour schemes, I'm thinking purple. After all Canaan was know for it's purple dye industry (from Wiki) :

Tablets found in the Mesopotamian city of Nuzi use the term Kinahnu ("Canaan") as a synonym for red or purple dye, laboriously produced by the Kassite rulers of Babylon from murex shells as early as 1600 BC, and on the Mediterranean coast by the Phoenicians from a byproduct of glassmaking. Purple cloth became a renowned Canaanite export commodity which is mentioned in Exodus. The dyes may have been named after their place of origin. The name 'Phoenicia' is connected with the Greek word for "purple", apparently referring to the same product, but it is difficult to state with certainty whether the Greek word came from the name, or vice versa. The purple cloth of Tyre in Phoenicia was well known far and wide and was associated by the Romans with nobility and royalty.

I said in my previous post I would discuss basing some more, but as John Matrix famously said in Commando; I lied ;-) .

(ah good ol" gratuitous violence from the 80s)

Actually I received quite a few question on how I do my basing, so I decided to devote a future post on the subject.

So the plan is set, the colours chosen, the figures bought, the reading in progress, now it's just a matter of completing the damn army!

Oh, and thanks to all my readers; I passed the 2000 hits milestone a few days ago. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Canaanite spearmen (Analogue contest first submission)

Finally my first entry into the Analogue painting challenge; a unit of 24 Canaanite spearmen (circa 1450 BC). 

Canaanite infantry (hupshu) was made-up of both militia and regular units. Most of the infantry were semi-trained militia or conscripted peasantry, who were lightly armed with spears or bows. Canaanite tradition dating from tribal days dictated that the infantrymen supplied their own equipment, but it is unclear whether this still applied into biblical times. It seems a distinction was made between militia armed with spears or bows. Canaanite infantry was mainly used as support to the main shock troops, the chariots. Obviously, the unit below represents militia spearmen.

The colour scheme is conjectural, of course, and purists will probably say that my blue and red are too bright. But with all that skin I wanted some vivid colours to create contrasts. I used a very limited palette however of red, pale blue and raw linen to give them a unifying theme, a colour scheme I will repeat with most of my infantry units. I'll explain more on that reasoning in the part II of my Canaan post. I quite enjoyed painting them, and they confirmed the high quality of the range.

While some rules treat them as open order, others do not. So I went with what I thought looked better, in this case close order (spearmen always look better in close order). You will notice my lack of desert terrain, it's next on my list of things to buy! 

The figures are Foundry, they are based on 50mm Litko bases.

This unit gets me on the Contest board with 120 pts.

 Currently on the painting table : Bedouin skirmishers and Canaanite chariots...

Monday, January 14, 2013

The land of Canaan, part I

The idea to start a biblical project came from a discussion with Laurie, my girlfriend. In one of those moment that proves she really loves me, I was discussing with her my desire to start a new project. As I was listing the eras that could interest me, she kinda challenged me and said 'you know, you've always done similar projects, eras dominated by European conflicts and Europeans, why don't you try something really different?' This got me thinking. Leaving Europe...started thinking about Ancients, which was my first Historical wargaming love. Back to the world of the Greeks? Romans? Not exotic enough I thought. Everyone does the Greeks, Seleucids and Romans. I wanted something completely different. And then while thinking about New Kingdom Egyptians and browsing Foundry's ancients ranges, it hit me; Canaanites! Not only is this a really original and rarely seen army, but at the same time it's a little wink to Laurie, who's jewish. After all while not exactly the same, Canaanites were of semitic origins and lived in the Levant (of which modern day Israel was part). It seemed perfect. The fact that the Foundry range was fantastic of course helped...

The opposing army would of course be the New Kingdom Egyptians, and my original goal was to recreate the battle of Megiddo. However after discussing the project with my wargaming entourage (i.e. John and Nicolas) both of them decided to join the fun, thus changing my plans. Nicolas will paint a Sea People army and while by no means definitive, John is currently thinking of doing the Egyptians. Which means for once I will be able to concentrate on doing one army. Yipee.

Now before I go any further, it might be good to describe a bit the Canaan region and the Canaanites :

From Wikipedia :

Canaan is a historical Semitic-speaking region roughly corresponding to the Levant (modern-day Israel, Palestinian territories, Lebanon, and the western parts of Jordan and Syria). Canaan was of geopolitical importance in the Late Bronze Age Amarna period as the area where the spheres of interest of the Egyptian, Hittite Empire and Assyrian Empires converged. Canaan is historically attested throughout the 4th millennium BC; the later Amarna Letters use Kinaḫḫu, while sources of the Egyptian New Kingdom mention numerous military campaigns conducted in Ka-na-na.

The etymology is uncertain. One explanation is that it has an original meaning of "lowlands", from a Semitic root knʿ "to be low, humble, depressed", in contrast with Aram, "highlands".[9] An alternative suggestion derives the term from Hurrian Kinahhu, purportedly referring to the colour purple, so that Canaan and Phoenicia would be synonyms ("Land of Purple").

From 1800 to approx. 1500 BC, Canaan land bridge and cultural development flourished, permitting the people of Canaan to build their cities into powerful and fortified urban centers. The military influence of the Hyksos and especially the Mitanni brought to the Canaanites the composite bow and the horse drawn chariot. The coat of mail used as body armour for Charioteers also came into use at this time. 

A Maryannu warrior, elite of the Canaan army
The entire region was one of fortified city-states, each ruled by a king or chief.  Although there was no High King or such, the countrywide Canaanite fortification design were so well integrated as to at least suggest some degree of cooperation amongst the princes. The purpose of these fortifications was to protect the lucrative trade routes of the region, liking it to Syrian and Egypt. Operating either independently or in concert, depending on the size and nature of the threat, the Canaanite princes were able to mount a mobile and fierce defense of their territories from these strategically located urban fortifications. From a military point of view, the city-states of Canaan represented a formidable defensive array against invading foes. A necessity, as the region was constantly disputed by the main powers of the times.

The 'underdog' status of the region, and it's organization into city-states are two things that appeal to me.

Ok, so the history lesson is finished for today. I'll try to include more of it in subsequent posts.

Back to wargaming...This project brings it's own challenges. For example, following a strict OOB is impossible, and there is very little information readily available on the army's appearance and composition.

I find planning is very important when starting a new project. This is just a resume, many of these points will be discussed further in future posts. :

The goal? To play. My first goal is to be able to put together in a respectable amount of time a fighting force. While I do think biblical armies look good, this is not a project to show-off in my cabinet. I love playing ancients, and I can't wait to try to play Chariot wars.

Size? Having to paint only one army makes this easier. However both Nico and John are aiming at a somewhat limited size army, so at the moment I'm thinking an army of about 12 chariots, 3-4 units of 20-24 figures and a couple of skirmishers units.

OOB? Very generic. I'll just try to have a good selection of the limited unit choices of the Canaanite army of the time.

Figures? The Foundry biblical range is one of the reason I got into this era, and I believe it is one of the best range the Perrys ever did. So easy choice. However all chariots will be from Cutting Edge Miniatures. They are just one notch above the competition (more on this in a later post). I will probaly use some Cutting Edge here and there to add some variety. 

The rules? War & Conquest, Hail Caesar, Basic Impetus (for the moment). I have them all and they all look interesting, although at first glance War & Conquest seems to have the upper hand. But as usual I will create a collection based on how I want it to look and the ruleset will have to adjust.

The basing? The bane of wargamers everywhere, the damn basing. I think I spend more time thinking about this issue than I do planning the rest of the project! And then you will probably second guess yourself, etc. Over the years however I did learn some things 
(your mileage may vary on these) :
  • Single basing is not an option when playing with units and large battle. It takes longer to base, it's a pain to move on the battlefield, it takes longer to transport. And I just think units look much better on multi-bases than on movement trays. 
  • Put more figures than less on bases; it's better imho to have 4 bases of 6 figures than 6 bases of 4. See the moving and transporting issues above. 
  • There is a delicate balance between too much frontage and not enough, no matter the period.
  • As long as you and your opponents have the same basing, it's all good and you should be able to adapt any ruleset to your collection.
I thought about it for a while, and then came up with a proposition. I discussed it with Nicolas to see if we were thinking the same way (he was). We settled on 50mm square bases for everything but the chariots. I would like to use that basing for future ancient projects too, so it was in part decided by the looks of close order troops: 20mm frontage looks too sparse to me, but 15mm looks too tight, and can be difficult to achieve with some poses. So 50mm per 3 figures gives us a good compromise. The breakdown looks like :
  • Infantry close order : 6 in 2 ranks on 50mm squares
  • Infantry open order : 4-5 on 50mm squares
  • Infantry skirmishers : 3 on 50mm square bases
  • Cavalry : 2 on 50mm square bases
  • Chariots : one chariot on a 50x80mm or 50x100mm bases (not sure yet).
 Next post, we will look into the army composition, colour scheme and more on basing.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Happy new year!

A bit late, I know. I made a point of avoiding most computers in the last week or so; I work in front of one all year long so I wanted to take a few days away from the machine. I hope your holidays were as fun as mine were. 

Paradoxally, this year's gifts it seems were electronic themed. The girlfriend got me a Google Nexus tablet (I love it), my parents a new Ipod and I got myself (contract was due for renewal) a new Samsung Galaxy III phone (fantastic machine). Few gifts hobby-wise, but the brothers got me a great illustrated book on the ACW, and I got myself a gift from Foundry. I think I deserved it ;-)

So I did spend some of my holiday time playing with and customizing my new toys. And of course listening to many, many bowls (it was a great Bowl season).

I also took the time off to start working on a permanent photography area for my miniatures, in my office. Basically I switched my painting desk into a photography desk, as the painting desk is now downstairs (with of course the blessing of my fantastic gf). Before, I had to take pics on the kitchen table or outside in the summer, and it was a pain having to install the scenery, lamps, etc. every single time I wanted to take a pic. So this should save me a lot of time, especially with the Analogue painting competition. The set-up is complete, now I just have to buy all the essentials' tripod, lamps, etc. When it's all ready, I'll take a few pics of the desk to show it off.

I did manage to paint, although not as much as I would've liked. I finished painting a small unit of Canaanite slingers as well as my first unit of Canaanite spearmen. The spearmen are waiting for the Dullcote and the basing; I'm giving them a few days for the Army painter to really set before dullcoting them. I'm not taking any chance! 

In my next post, I'll talk in details about my new Canaan army project, and hopefully I'll have pictures of my first entry into the Analogue contest. In the meantime, to give you a taste of what's coming, here's my first unit of Canaanites; slingers. Being an honest fellow I did not enter these into the Analogue contest, as they were started before the comp starting date. But I did wanted to finish them asap so I finished them first. Maybe not the best strategic move but hey, anyways I have about as much chance of winning that contest as I have of winning the superbowl!

The figures are Foundry. Bases are Litko.